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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

François Couperin - Royal Concerts (Jordi Savall)


Composer: François Couperin
  • (01-06) Les Concerts royaux, Premier concert
  • (07-11) Les Concerts royaux, Deuxième concert
  • (12-18) Les Concerts royaux, Troisième concert
  • (19-25) Les Concerts royaux, Quatrième concert

Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall, conductor
Date: 2004
Label: Alia Vox




Back in the 1980s Jordi Savall received well-deserved international acclaim for his stylish, if not idiomatically unique, recordings of François Couperin’s Les Nations, Les Apothéoses, and Pièces de Violes (all originally on Astrée, though now reissued by Naïve). Well, he’s back with a stunning performance of Couperin’s Les Concerts Royaux, and the wait certainly has been worth it. From the opening prelude Gravement of the Premier Concert to the concluding Forlane Rondeau Gayement of the fourth and final Quatrieme Concert Savall and his distinguished colleagues aurally evoke the opulence, grandeur, sophistication, and at times the frivolity and caprice of Louis XIV’s court.

Expertly crafted performances and knowing period practice certainly are par for the course here, though Savall’s auspicious achievement ultimately rests with one simple, brilliant, though strangely rarely acknowledged fact–that like Louis, Savall understands that often more is indeed more and that size, especially here, really does matter. Unlike the vast majority of the many previous recordings of these pieces, where the ensembles typically vary in number between two to four members (Couperin rarely was specific about instrumentation), Savall is joined by seven players–all among the crème de la crème of the current European period-performance scene.

Alia Vox’s sound leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. The ensemble balances are ideal and the timbre and presence of each instrument is remarkably transparent and convincing. The lavish digipac presentation and 63-page multi-lingual booklet featuring inspirational notes by Savall, a brief movement-by-movement appreciation by Philippe Beaussant, as well as a facsimile of Couperin’s original letter discussing Les Concerts Royaux’s raison d’être, equally complement the first-rate production. This is big, fat, decadent, ostentatiously French Couperin guaranteed to satisfy the heartiest music lover’s appetite.

-- John Greene, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


François Couperin (10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand ("Couperin the Great") to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family. Couperin's four volumes of harpsichord music, contain over 230 individual pieces, was loved by composers such as J. S. Bach, Brahms (who performed Couperin's music in public), R. Strauss (who orchestrated some Couperin's music) and Ravel (who wrote Le tombeau de Couperin).


Jordi Savall (born August 1, 1941) is a Catalan conductor, viol player, and composer. He has been one of the major figures in the field of Western early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for reviving the use of viol family instruments (notably the viola da gamba) in contemporary performance and recording. His characteristic repertoire features Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, and occasionally Classical and even Romantic periods. Savall's discography includes more than 100 recordings, on EMI Classics, Astrée, and his own label, Alia Vox.


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